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What is Verbophobia?

“And there is also verbophobia, which is the fear of words. In that case, it is best to keep quiet, said Juan de Dios Martínez. It’s a bit more complicated than that, because words are everywhere, even in silence, which is never complete silence, isn’t that so?”

Roberto Bolaño (2666, Barcelona: Anagrama, 2004).


Also known as logophobia, verbophobia is the persistent, abnormal and unjustified fear of words.


What could trigger such an odd phenomenon? Numerous studies have been conducted to determine this. Some claim that the reason some words provoke aversion is related to phonological components. However, in a recent study by Paul Thibodeau, a professor at Oberlin University, a very interesting experiment was conducted that could determine that phonology is not the real reason behind this peculiar phobia.

In the study, phonologically similar words, to which an individual subject reacted with aversion, were repeated to the subject over and over again. However, the subject did not react with repudiation towards them. For Thibodeau the real reason for despising certain words lies in their connotation.

When observed from a psychoanalytic point of view, however, the true cause of verbophobia is a different story altogether. Psychoanalysts believe that this condition is related to a trauma triggered by psychological abuse. Certain words or phrases, whether they are pejorative or not, but used in this way and in certain occasions, can produce aversion, fear or even panic in the future; even if the subject does not consciously remember having suffered any type of violence.


How is this condition manifested? Panic, sweating, headaches, tremors and dizziness are the main symptoms. Verbophobia, can also be related to the fear of misspelled, mispronounced or misused words. In these cases, people suffering from this affliction find it almost impossible to speak in public.


The recommended treatment for this condition involves psychological therapies, NLP techniques and ontological coaching.